MAS.S64 - City Sci-fi: Speculative Movie Making Towards the Design of Future Cities

Kent Larson, Professor of the Practice
Luis Alberto Alonso Pastor, Research Scientist
Gabriela Bila Advincula, Research Assistant
3-2-7 Units
Wednesdays, 9am - 12pm
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City Sci-fi  // Spring 2023 

A City Science workshop

FIRST CLASS:    February 8th (WED)

TEACHING TEAM: Kent Larson, Gabriela Bìlá, Luis Alonso (City Science)

Kaiho Yu (Visiting lecturer, Die Angewandte - Direct Tomorrow Lab)

+ City Science researchers and industry guests 


SUMMARY: This class is a hands-on workshop on fiction narrative and movie making. Students will imagine how new technologies may impact urban life in 50 years and produce a short movie to immerse larger audiences in their world concept.

1st half of term // Building the world and the story: Students will learn about state-of-the-art urban technologies and, informed by this, develop a future world scenario. 

2nd half of term // Movie production: Students will build technical skills such as shooting, editing, virtual composing (Unreal Engine), and other aspects of moviemaking. They will be guided by the mentors and guest lecturers through the process of bringing their idea to completion .

Exhibition: Final projects will be displayed at a public screening at the Media Lab Bartos Theater followed by Q+A.

Structure: Typically, each 3-hour session will begin with a 45 to 60-minute lecture plus Q+A.  Students will then be given a 2-hour in-class workshop time for assignments, tutorials, and presentations of project progress.

Motivation: Urban planning traditionally focuses on the form and image of a city, but less on the urban experience.  As time passes, the disconnect between urban design and human life becomes more apparent. The future of the city depends on close attention to the human experience, and narrative can reinforce and investigate this intimacy.

In this workshop, designers, engineers, scientists, and students from multiple backgrounds will make teams to imagine urban experiences in the future using movie-making as a tool. We will take a look at the fundamentals of sci-fi world-building with a special focus on the role of city sets in the narrative, and learn techniques to plot stories into immersive narratives.  Students will build an urban landscape that shapes this future, a character story to inhabit the world, and a short movie that tells this story. Narratives will be experienced on many different levels through cinematography, prototyping, and/or sound design. 


  • Week 1 (08/FEB) City sci-fi // Class introduction: Kent Larson, Gabriela Bìlá, Luis Alonso, Kaiho Yu
  • Week 2 (15/FEB) City Science, emerging technologies and urban phenomena // Lecture: Media Lab researchers lighting talks
  • Week 3 (22/FEB) Building fictional worlds // Lecture: Natasha Sandmeier 
  • Week 4 (01/MAR) Screenwriting and character development // Lecture: Dominga Sotomayor Castillo
  • Week 5 (08/MAR) Spatial narratives // Lecture: Guest TBA
  • Week 7 (22/MAR) Production planning   
  • Week 8 (29/MAR) MIT Spring Break // Office hours by request.
  • Week 9 (05/APR) Virtual spaces composition // Lecture: Diogo Costa Pinto - Quanta Studios // Class tutorial: Unreal Engine 
  • Week 9.1 (08/APR) Morphing Boston's landscape - Unreal Engine workshop // Mentor: Diogo Costa Pinto - Quanta Studios
  • Week 10 (12/APR) Cinematography // Lecture: Sean Webley // Class tutorial: How to assemble a basic movie set using camera, lights, background, audio recorders. 
  • Week 10.1 (Day TBD) Video editing workshop
  • Week 11 (19/APR) Motion design // Lecture: Guest TBA // Class tutorial: Motion design effects workshop.
  • Week 12 (26/APR) Sound // Lecture: Guest TBA // Class Tutorial:  Use software to edit sound.
  • Week 13 (03/MAY) Editing // Lecture: Inferstudio 
  • Week 14 (10/MAY) FINAL CLASS
  • Week 14.1 (12/MAY - Friday) - EXHIBITION* // Shorties screening festival, open to all Media Lab community. Q&A with students.

*Final exhibit might be combined with other MAS classes' final presentations.

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